Does Vista suck?

Though not without its warts, Microsoft's much maligned OS gets the job done for enterprise users

Application compatibility

This remains my No. 1 gripe, though things are getting better. App incompatibility with Vista was horrific when the OS first arrived -- and this after Microsoftees took me aside and played up how they've been working with third-party developers more closely on Vista than with any previous OS incarnation. But today, the basic stuff works: Office, OpenOffice, Acrobat, Firefox, Thunderbird -- I can run my basic productivity suite whether it's Redmond's or open source.

But there are still apps that give me problems, which truly sucks when it's something critical like QuickBooks. This is getting better, but far, far too slowly for my taste. Then again, if I'm evaluating this for a business, the solution is simple: Test your apps. Pass and you can upgrade. Fail and you wait. It's not like XP Pro is going anywhere in the next 24 months. Plus, can we really ding Microsoft for this? I mean, if your business is ISV with a Windows concentration, how come you still don't have a Vista version 6 months after release?

Grade: Pass (grudgingly)

Hardware compatibility

My second major gripe, for much the same reasons as application compatibility: It just shouldn't be an issue this late in the game. Just like app compatibility, Microsoft specifically mentioned its diligence with regard to hardware compatibility during Vista's dev phase, yet 6 months post-RTM and I can still stump Vista if I want to. But it'll be something fancy or from a business perspective, unnecessary -- like a recent review of a Genius web cam that required a special driver download.

But if I stick to day-to-day business hardware, I can't complain ... much. I've been through printers from HP, Konica-Minolta, and Epson; scanners from HP, CardScan, and Fujitsu; USB 2.0 and Firewire storage peripherals from umpteen vendors, including cell phone-installed SD cards and digital camera memory cards, and no problems.

Again, I think the file transfer UIs could use work, but they certainly are functional. The clincher is that I've never had a hardware problem that wasn't solved by a new driver. Not one. So just like under application compatibility: 6 months post-RTM, how lax is your hardware operation if you haven't managed a Vista compatibility driver yet? I can't pin that on Microsoft.

Grade: Pass (Yeah, grudgingly.)

Are there parts of Vista I really hate? Sure. Built-in DRM is a biggie in my book, but it doesn't affect my business clients so I'm not slamming it here. The resource hog thing is also annoying, but from a business angle most of these upgrades are associated with new hardware anyway, so again it's not a big issue.

Bottom line: Vista doesn't suck. If I have to give a grade instead of Pass/Fail, it's C+ to B- depending on how cranky I am that day. Or to put it another way, I've only got one XP Pro machine left here, due solely to that app incompatibility agony. When that clears, XP becomes extinct and I'm not looking back.

What's that spell for Enterprise Windows networkers? Pretty much business as usual. No gold stars, but certainly not enough suckage to force the expense, time, and pain of a platform migration for a whole business PC portfolio.

Then again, Vista does suck enough to make that an interesting article: Get two similar businesses running Windows XP, then move one to Windows Vista and the other to the Mac or some Linux flavor. See who has more problems. Any volunteers?

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Oliver Rist

Network World
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